DelVal Outdoors News Roundup, April 10, 2020

The Twin Bridges near East Falls Philadelphia (and a railroad), as seen by kayak on April 6, 2020 [Photo: Kyle Bagenstose]

By Kyle Bagenstose

On Monday, I took my kayak out for the first time this year, to catch some sun on the Schuylkill off Philly’s Kelly Drive. “Maybe I’ll hit it again Friday,” I thought.

Nope: it seems we’ve lost some of that sunshine from earlier in the week and are looking at a high of just 50 degrees under cloudly skies today. But it’s up to 57 tomorrow and maybe even 70 on Sunday, so hopefully there are some opportunities to fish, paddle, or kayak to be had.

Today’s headlines and highlights

Philly parks reaching a boiling point? Perhaps what most caught my eye over the past 24 hours was this editorial from the Inquirer’s editorial board, calling on Mayor Jim Kenney to follow New Jersey’s lead and close all of the city’s parks and facilities. The Inquirer takes the time to note all of the negatives that come from such a decision, but ultimately concludes that it’s in the interest of public health, particularly as crowding has continued and residents have ignored the partial closures of basketball courts and other city assets.

Meanwhile, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia has also written to Kenney, but instead asked that the city close more public roads and open them up for recreational use, as was done on Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive.

One gets the sense there is common thread here that Philly’s recreational assets are becoming overloaded, and something should be done.

Personally, I hope the parks don’t have to close. My visits to Kelly Drive, the Wissahickon, and John Heinz are basically the last things I have to look forward to to getting out of the house (besides picking up loaded nachos from Loco Pez, of course). I imagine others without the privilege of a car are limited to even fewer options; perhaps just a smaller park or two within walking distance. Cutting off that access would be at the very least demoralizing, if not having even worse unintended consequences. I like the Coalition’s idea of opening up more space for the public. That may very will diminish crowds in existing assets, rather than close those assets and have foot traffic spillover elsewhere.

But I’m also not an expert or privy to their analysis. I assume somebody with such qualifications is in Kenney’s ear, calculating the public health benefits of various policy decisions. If closing the parks is an action they are confident will flatten the curve, I would understand why it must be done.

Off the soap box and into…

… More word on closures

On Wednesday I wrote about which parks and trails are still open in the Delaware Valley. And yesterday, I wrote about whether or not people are still able to backpack or camp in Pennsylvania.

Scratch a few more things off the list. Yesterday the Morning Call‘s Andrew Scott reported that the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in NEPA has closed its backcountry camping sites on the Appalachian Trail, along with its river camping sites, through May 22. Those in the know say this was due to overcrowding, with groups camping on the AT and people actually driving to some of the riverfront campsites (that’s a uhh… big no-no. You’re supposed to paddle in).

In northwest PA, the Allegheny National Forest has banned all overnight organized camping and groups of more than 10, and shuttered all bathrooms and facilities. However, according to its website, it remains open for paddling and backpacking.

Other news:

Philly’s CSO mitigation efforts chronicled: The Washington Post‘s Frances Stead Sellers visited Philadelphia to pen this largely favorable piece about the effort of the city and local watershed groups to tackle Philly’s combined sewer overflow (CSO) problem, when runoff from heavy rains causes raw sewage to flow into area creeks. For those who don’t know, there’s a multi-billion dollar mitigation effort in action under the Green City, Clean Waters initiative. Get yourself a free rain barrel!

Trump admin to open wildlife refuge land to hunting/fishing: Several news outlets covered this but I saw it on PBS first. The Department of the Interior has announced plans to open 2.3 million acres across 100 national wildlife refuges to hunting and fishing. Reactions are still coming in, but logically this is going to be opposed by many environmental and conservation groups, while being supported by hunting and fishing counterparts. The public has 60 days (June 8) to comment.

Here’s what’s proposed for Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania:

DE – Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, near Dover: Open rail, snipe, gallinule, woodcock and coyote hunting on new acres and acres already open to hunting, open sport fishing for the first time, and expand existing migratory bird, upland game and big game hunting to new acres.

NJ – Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, near Long Beach Island: Expand existing sport fishing to new acres.

PA – Lamar National Fish Hatchery, near Loch Haven: Open sport fishing for the first time.

Mind the slipstream: A new study modeling how coronavirus particles could spew from a runner has been making headlines, including in the Inquirer. It’s a computer model and hasn’t been verified or peer-reviewed, but the basic advice sounds solid: stay out of the “slipstream” directly behind a runner. Instead, stay off to the side or at a diagonal, and use way more distance than six feet. Instead, stay 30 feet away if you’re both running, or 60 feet if on a swiftly moving bicycle.

And news parents can use: Stacey Carr-Poole is the executive director of the Bucks County Audubon. She’s also a terrific blogger, where she has eight days and counting of “lesson plans” parents can use to teach their children about the natural world using just their own backyards or neighborhoods. Rocks, birds, habitats, buds, and all other manner of natural delights easily within reach of the quarantined.

And that’s the rundown of today’s environmental news in the Delaware Valley. See something we didn’t cover? Drop me a line at Kyle@delvaloutdoors.com.

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